Intense, ferocious and ruthless.
Those are just a few superlatives to describe The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 Featherweight winner, Diego Brandao. On the flip side, polite, appreciative and humble are also a few more words that can be used to describe the same fighter.
After storming his way into the TUF house with a vicious first round knockout of Jesse Newell, Brandao showed his aggressive streak by disposing of his opponent, Steven Siler, in less than 30 seconds, connecting with a well placed left hook that advanced him to the next round.
While on the show, Brandao earned the reputation of being a loose cannon during sparring sessions with his own teammates, going all out with his striking, causing tension within his own team.
Diego earned his spot in the finals by defeating Bryan Caraway, setting him up against NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Dennis Bermudez, in The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale.
After surviving an early scare from Bermudez, almost losing everything he has worked for his entire career and with only nine seconds remaining in the first round, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt showed his impressive ground skills by catching Bermudez in an armbar that forced a tap and gave Diego the "six-figure" contract and the right to be called The Ultimate Fighter.
Now, the jiu-jitsu ace is focused on taking his career one fight at a time and is in no hurry to rush things.
Diego spoke to MMAmania.com and touched on what it was like to be locked in a house for six weeks, where his intensity stems from and whether or not he would ever consider fighting his friend, UFC Featherweight kingpin, Jose Aldo.
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"Look at me right now bro, I'm happy. I'm a happy guy," he says, as he jumps around and smiles, as if he was warming up for a fight. "But, in competition, I am an energetic person and very intense. In the house, when a guy would beat my friend, I was like, "'Who is this guy that beat my friend?'" So, in my mind I am like, man, that guy is tough, and after weeks you get intense."
Even though Brandao showed his intensity and often times short temperament throughout the show, he says it is only the call of battle that brings out his intensity. "During the six weeks, people thought I was crazy, but I am only aggressive when I'm going to fight. I want to destroy the guy because he wants to hurt me."
That mentality, he feels, is what willed him to turn the tables on his opponent in the Finale. "In my last fight, you see he knocked me down, but I had to come back very aggressive in order to win."
The victory over Bermudez not only ensured him a contract with the world's largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion, but also put him in the record books, becoming the first Brazilian to win TUF. Something he says he is very proud of, but won't let his accomplishments thus far go to his head.
"I feel good on being the first Brazilian to win TUF, but I'm still the same person inside, but of course you feel different because the fans recognize you, but in my head I'm the same person, I make sure every day I ask God, I want to be humble, and I am excited for my next fight."
A fight, he says, is close to being confirmed.
"I want to tell you who, but I cannot say yet because it is not confirmed. I'm so sorry to you guys that have been waiting so long, but it is coming."
With the UFC putting on two successful shows in Brandao's home land of Brazil with UFC 134 and more recently UFC 142, the young fighter, says he hopes to one day be able to fight once again in his home country, but understands if the promotion wants to give other established Brazilian fighters the first opportunity.
"I already asked Dana White, but I think I am too small in the UFC right now, there are other guys who have better opportunity to fight there before me, but in time, I definitely want to fight in Brazil and one day Dana will give me the opportunity."
The Jackson-WinkelJohn Mixed Martial Arts-trained fighter, is all too familiar with the eventual conflicts that arise when the day comes that you either have to face a friend or a training partner inside the Octagon, having a firsthand view of the Jon Jones and Rashad Evans fallout, and the potential clash of Carlos Condit and Georges St. Pierre, all whom Brandao trains with or has trained alongside with. Like his teammates, Brandao has the "fighting is a business" mentality when it comes to potentially matching up with current UFC Featherweight title holder, Jose Aldo, down the road.
"I am too young right now in the UFC. I need to focus on my career because I am young, and I'm barely starting. Jose Aldo is my friend, I respect him, I am in the same job as him. If we have to fight one day, God is going to put us to fight, Dana White is gonna put us to fight, but we will still be friends. But right now, I am going slow, I'm like four or five wins away from a title shot ... I am going to go slow. Jose Aldo for me is the best guy in the planet."
With his next fight soon to be confirmed, Brandao can start his journey in capturing a world title, something he says he is very appreciative of having the chance to do on the biggest platform of them all.
"Without you guys putting our names out there and interviewing us, this isn't possible. And the fans, I love all my fans, in Brazil, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Portugal, all over the place, the fans thank you for the UFC support, I love you guys."